Minister Blair’s Opening Remarks

Mr. Chair, Honourable Committee members,

Thank you for inviting me to join you today.

I appreciate your efforts to review the measures we’ve put in place that work to keep Canadians safe during this global crisis –

specifically, our requirements for mandatory quarantine, which are among the strictest in the world.

I want to begin by declaring that I am deeply concerned about the allegations of assault at a quarantine hotel, and during a compliance check.

No Canadian should be concerned for their safety.

These events are absolutely unacceptable and I want to express my support for the survivors of these terrible crimes.

These events are being fully investigated.

We expect that perpetrators will be held accountable for their actions.

We are committed to preventing incidents such as these from occurring again.

Role of the CBSA and RCMP

I want to talk about what the CBSA and RCMP do to keep Canadians safe and prevent the importation of COVID-19.

As you know, we put in place the mandatory 14-day quarantine period in March of last year.

And recently, we implemented additional measures and testing requirements for travellers arriving in Canada by land or by air.

Since we introduced the requirement for travellers to show proof of a valid pre-arrival COVID-19 test, there has been an overall 59 per cent drop in travellers arriving by air.

Of those arriving by air or at land entries, over 99% have been compliant with the mandatory pre-arrival testing requirement.

We also know that keeping Canadians safe will require our constant vigilance, as we adapt in real-time as new circumstances emerge.

To be clear, Mr. Chair, in all our actions, the health, safety and security of all Canadians is our utmost priority.

With respect to health and safety measures at the border, CBSA officers have been at the forefront of our response since the beginning of the pandemic.

They have responded to the challenge, and quickly adapted to new border and health measures.

They apply over 90 acts and regulations. They screen all travellers upon entry.

They are vigilant, professional and responsive to the needs of Canadians.

They collect contact information on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

They confirm the suitability of quarantine plans for each traveller.

Before they make a decision on whether or not to allow a traveller to enter Canada, they will review each traveller’s unique circumstances, and the documents presented.

Border Services Officers are trained to observe visible signs of illness.

As designated screening officers under the Quarantine Act, CBSA Officers have the authority to review, challenge and confirm traveller’s statements.

Where questions arise with regards to a traveller’s quarantine plan, health status or documents, they will be directed to the Public Health Agency of Canada who will make the final determination.

This includes the decision on whether to pursue any enforcement action, such as fines related to the public health orders under the Quarantine Act.

Mr. Chair, quarantine remains our most effective measure.

Health and law enforcement officers will be in regular contact with travellers to ensure they are following quarantine orders.

Those who choose not to follow these requirements put vulnerable Canadians, first responders and healthcare workers at risk.

I will again remind Canadians that breaking quarantine is a serious violation that can result in severe fines or jail time.

The enhanced presence of border services and public health officers at the border is helping ensure travellers understand all of their obligations, and the consequences of not complying with these requirements.

And the RCMP continues to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada, playing a coordination role for all Canadian law enforcement.

The RCMP helps ensure that the appropriate police of jurisdiction are provided with the information required to conduct physical verification of compliance with quarantine orders.

I will point out that the RCMP’s law enforcement role in response to the Federal Order focuses on non-compliance that occurs within its policing jurisdiction.

We are working collaboratively with the provinces and territories, airport authorities and local police of jurisdiction – all of whom play critical roles in the enforcement of border and quarantine measures.

And we will continue working together to maintain our border measures and keep Canadians safe.

Mr. Chair, our thoughts continue to be with the survivors of these terrible crimes and will work to prevent incidents such as these from happening again, while holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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